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BACK TO Holiday & Entertaining The Complete Thanksgiving Checklist
How To Plan Thanksgiving Dinner

The Complete Thanksgiving Checklist

Putting together a big meal like Thanksgiving dinner is all about the planning. Stay organized and keep track of everything you need with our Thanksgiving Checklist.

3 Weeks Before
  • Pick your menu.
  • Settle the number of guests, and figure out how much of each dish you’ll need.
  • Ask volunteers to pick their favorite task. Consider suggesting specific recipes to make it easy.
  • Start making your shopping list, and begin stocking up on supplies.
  • Order your turkey now, if you’re getting a fresh turkey.

To avoid the seasonal rush on Thanksgiving foods, purchase non-perishable items now.

2 Weeks Before
  • Set up a cleaning schedule.
  • Check to see if the table linens are clean and ironed.
  • Make sure you have the right tableware, including plates, silverware, glassware, serving platters, casserole dishes and utensils.
  • Plan and design the tablescape.
  • Shop for staple ingredients.

Check your pantry for stuffing mix, broth, stock, paper and baking goods before hitting the store.

1 Week Before
  • Buy wine, if serving. Try whites like Chardonnay or Riesling and reds like Pinot Noir or Zinfandel.
  • Pick out serving dishes and utensils, and label selected dishes with sticky notes.
  • Clean out the refrigerator – prepping and leftovers can take up a lot of room.
  • Shop for perishables.
  • Start thawing the turkey, if it’s frozen.

Is your turkey frozen? Read: 2 Ways to Thaw a Turkey

2 Days Before
  • Get all of the cooking equipment together.
  • Begin setting the table and setting up the buffet.

Roasting a Turkey? Read: 9 Steps to Your Best Turkey Ever

The Day Before Thanksgiving
  • Pick up the fresh turkey, if ordered.
  • Dice onions, celery and other vegetables.
  • Place turkey in the brine and refrigerate, if brining.
  • Bake the desserts.
  • Put white wine and other beverages in the fridge to chill.
  • Prepare make-ahead recipes.
  • Put together the centerpiece.
  • Finish setting the table.
  • Review the checklist one more time, to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

You can make cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, salad dressing and more ahead of time.

Need to brush up on how to cook a turkey? Read: 9 Steps to Your Best Turkey Ever

4 to 5 hours Before Dinner
  • Prep the turkey for roasting.
  • Put the turkey in the oven.
  • Prep stuffing to be baked, if the turkey is unstuffed.
  • Peel and cut the potatoes, then chill them in the broth.
  • Prep the appetizers.
2 Hours Before Dinner
  • Finish prepping the casseroles.
  • Place food that will keep on the table.

Cranberry sauce and vegetable trays can be set out now.

1 Hour Before Dinner
  • Serve cocktails and appetizers.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven, when it’s done.
  • Bake the casseroles.
  • Begin any stove top cooking.

Not sure if your turkey is ready? Read: Knowing Your Turkey is Done + Stuffing Safety

30 Minutes Before Dinner
  • Carve the turkey.
  • Set out the refrigerated dishes.
  • Make the gravy.
  • Mash the potatoes

Keep mashed potatoes warm in a double boiler until dinner is ready.

Just Before Dinner
  • Fill glasses with ice.
  • Call guests to the table and give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving, from the Campbell’s Kitchen family.

Don't know what to do with leftover food? Read: We Love Leftovers!